Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Rule: Nobody Leaves!

A couple weeks back, I was using a a new and different beamline. It was quite the fantastic adventure- familiar in some ways, but yet exotic and challenging. It had been a long day- it had been “take your Child to work day,” so of course I spent all day keeping kids from hurting themselves with dry ice. Then I started on a benchmarking-type experiment.  I had been working with the station scientist, and we had gotten the experiment running, and then I said a dreadful phrase:
“You can head home, I think we are set, here.” So he did. It was late, we were tired.  And I went back to my beamline, and talked to the boyfriend, and then we realized that the experiment needed a slight modification. “No problem,” I thought, “ I can fix that.” So I sat down, and made my “minor”  changes.
“Hmmm,” I said to the boyfriend, something looks really wrong with the diffraction images, “I wonder..” my voice trailed off, as I walked toward the experimental hutch “….aaaargh!!!”  I shouted and cursed! The detector array had driven itself away from where it should have been, and was looking like it was trying to make a run for the door.
“Why did that motor drive????”  Umm, because you (or the buggy, alpha-version of the software) told it to. Duh. Upon opening the hutch, an obvious collateral damage victim was found- the Styrofoam-inlaid-with-Lead beamstop was hanging tenuously, gently resting on the top of a $200k detector. With much help from the boyfriend, everything was patched back together, and the experiment resumed, albeit a few hours later, with my kid eagerly watching and waiting for us to fix it and get home.

The next week, I was trying to use a spectrometer on that very same beamline.  I had witnessed a couple of uses, and had assisted on a few more, so I felt vaguely competent. It was the end of the day, and I had some more measurements to take,  so I said the words again:
“You can head home. I think I will be fine.” Two hours later,  there was a cursing and growling emanating from behind the laser curtain. The sample rig had collided with the camera, and I got to have a “crash” course in optical realignment.
So the new rule is Nobody Leaves.  I explained this to the boyfriend, and he smiled at me.  That smile that makes me feel like I am being slightly paranoid. 
Today I put the Boyfriend on a plane back to his native land for a much-needed vacation. I told him he should go, and have a great time, that I would be fine.  He is still in the air right now. I just got an email from our boss. Our NSF grant is not going to be recommended for awarding. 
The curse of "Nobody Leaves" attacks again. Only this one, we can’t fix. :-P

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